How will Game of Thrones actually end?
We take a look at the most likely conclusions for the epic fantasy series – and wonder who will be left sitting on the Iron Throne in the season 8 finale
How will Game of Thrones end? It sounds like an obvious question, but sadly for fans and online entertainment writers, it’s not as simple as solving some kind of riddle and finding the “correct” answer.
Really, how you think Thrones will end largely depends on the sort of show you think it is. Is it still the rug-pulling, anti-heroic narrative that beheaded Sean Bean, put on a Red Wedding and left Jon Snow bleeding in the, er, regular snow?
Or, now that the series has moved beyond George RR Martin’s original novels, is it something a bit more 'traditional'?
A rags-to-throne story where heroes can’t really die (hello again Jon), can face insurmountable supernatural odds and still come out on top?
More recent seasons (which have relied slightly less on bleak realism) could suggest this.
- Everything you need to know about Game of Thrones season 8
- RadioTimes.com newsletter: get the latest TV and entertainment news direct to your inbox
At this stage, the soul of Game of Thrones has yet to be won conclusively by either camp, leaving any potential endings up in the air.
We know that author George RR Martin had planned a “bittersweet” ending for his book series, saying that “you can't just fulfil a quest and then pretend life is perfect” – but how closely will showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss cleave to his ideas in the TV adaptation?
We could be in for a grim ending, a happy ending, something in between or something even weirder, and perhaps the only thing we do know is that predicting Game of Thrones’ endgame is a mug’s game.
Still, that won’t stop me having a go – so here are a few endings that we could be seeing at the close of the series finale this year, and just how likely they are to actually happen.
The White Walkers win and kill everyone
In a way this feels like the purest, most Game of Thrones-y ending: the forces of the Night King massacring the living of Westeros and bringing about a thousand years of darkness.
This ending would do a nice job of setting up the upcoming prequel series, which explores the first time the White Walkers attacked and were actually rebuffed – a “here’s what you could have won” for the ages – while also neatly fulfilling many fans’ theory that the threat of the Night King is intended as an analogy for society-altering climate change, creeping towards us while we all squabble over unimportant matters.
On the flipside, an ending like this might be too ghoulish and macabre, and, frankly, not dramatically satisfying. As cool as we might imagine it to be for the series to end with the Night King sitting on the Iron Throne, in reality it would be a bit of an anti-climax, while also rendering the last few years of storyline entirely pointless. Not very likely.
More like this
Daenerys takes the throne
By contrast, this ending would feel like the most triumphant conclusion of all, with Daenerys defeating the White Walkers, taking the Iron Throne and uniting the realm after years of struggle and exile. Maybe Jon could even reign with her, with or without his true heritage as Aegon Targaryen revealed.
Surely, though, it couldn’t be this simple? Weirdly, having everything work out this neatly would be almost as unsatisfying as the White Walkers snowploughing their way through all our favourite characters after all the twists and turns the series has taken us on thus far.
No, we’re thinking something more complicated could be on the way – unless Benioff and Weiss find some way to make this a less upbeat ending, perhaps including the death or disgrace of other fan-favourite characters (Tyrion, Arya and the like) to make it a more bitter pill to swallow.
Cersei remains on the throne
It’s nobody’s favourite ending – but in a way, the continued reign of Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister would be the perfect “bittersweet” conclusion to the story of Westeros.
Imagine Jon, Daenerys and co managing to defeat an army of zombies, an undead dragon AND the White Walkers, only to be cruelly cut down at the last minute or forced into exile again while Cersei's forces retake Westeros.
The threat to the North is gone, but we never see the people we wanted in charge – that feels like Game of Thrones.
Jon takes the throne and reigns miserably
This is my personal bet. Season seven confirmed that Jon is in fact the rightful king of Westeros with a stronger claim than Daenerys, but he’s never enjoyed ruling.
Whether at the Night’s Watch or in the North, Jon has struggled with command, proving that a good man doesn’t necessarily make for a good or happy king. This would be a brilliantly bittersweet way for things to end, someone we like on the throne, but hating it.
It’s an idea that George RR Martin has previously said inspired his novels, after being unconvinced that Lord of the Rings character Aragorn would make a good, happy king just because he was a nice guy.
If there’s anyone a bit like Aragorn in Game of Thrones, it’s Jon Snow – an honourable man with a regal background who’s lived a life among ordinary people, swept into a massive war – so it could be that this was Martin’s endgame all along.
And where’s Dany in this version of events? Well, for years the series has suggested that Jon is also the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, aka The Prince Who Was Promised, a near-mythical hero who beat back the White Walkers the first time they invaded, but had to sacrifice the life of his one true love to do so.
Who’s to say that Daenerys won’t be the price for defeating the Army of the Dead this time? Yet another reason for Jon’s ascension to feel like a pyrrhic victory.
The Throne is destroyed – a new age dawns
On the other hand, we could be looking at this all wrong. The idea of the Iron Throne falling for good is a fairly popular idea with fans, many of whom have suggested that the only way Game of Thrones can end is if the in-universe 'game of thrones' ends too. In other words, the failed monarchy of the Seven Kingdoms is cast down forever, with no-one left on the Iron Throne.
Maybe Daenerys will finally “break the wheel” and install some form of democracy in Westeros. Maybe the Seven Kingdoms will break apart again into separate realms, as they were around 300 years before the start of the series. Either way, the evocative symbol of the Iron Throne could be gone for good.
Something incredibly weird and unexpected
To be honest it’s hard to guess how Game of Thrones will wrap everything up, so even some of the weirder theories online are hard to discount. I’ve seen people suggest that Jon will become the new Night King and march the White Walkers away again; I’ve seen one fan pitching the resurrection of Littlefinger as a benevolent ruler for all Westeros; I’ve seen another suggesting that Bran will just time travel and undo the whole thing.
All seem unlikely – but then, which of us could have predicted the tragic, central role that Hodor’s catchphrase would play in the series?
We can probably expect some deaths, some sudden but inevitable betrayals, some truly epic battles, some tears – about the only thing the actors have revealed about the series’ ending is that it’s a bit of a tearjerker – as well as a few leftfield writing choices we could never see coming (personally, I think Ed Sheeran's Lannister soldier has a lot more to offer).
And if it turns out to be an ending some people don’t like, well, not to worry – when George RR Martin finishes the final novels in the book series a few decades from now, he’ll get another crack at it anyway.
Game of Thrones season eight will be released on 14th April on HBO in the US and NOW TV and Sky Atlantic in the UK